This section contains information on the Emergency Alert System (EAS), a resilient form of emergency alert notification, and the National EAS Test that was designed to assess the President’s ability to send a message to the American people within 10 minutes of a disaster.
Background on the Emergency Alert System (EAS)
Resilient public alert and warning tools are essential to save lives and protect property during times of national, state, regional, and local emergencies. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is used by alerting authorities to send warnings via broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline communications pathways. Emergency Alert System participants, which consist of broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline providers, are the stewards of this important public service in close partnership with alerting officials at all levels of government. The EAS is also used when all other means of alerting the public are unavailable, providing an added layer of resiliency to the suite of available emergency communication tools. The EAS is in a constant state of improvement to ensure seamless integration of CAP-based and emerging technologies.
Nationwide Emergency Alert System Post-Test Information
On November 9th, 2011 at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, the first-ever nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test was conducted across the United States and its territories. The purpose of the test was to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the system for the President to address the public during times of extreme national emergency. EAS participants across the country participated in the test.
FEMA originated an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) simultaneously to 61 Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations that serve as national-level relay points. These PEP stations rebroadcasted the message in their coverage area to local primary stations and other monitoring stations. The test was not a pass or fail measure, but an exercise to proactively identify strengths and opportunities for improvements of the current EAS. Although the test message was successfully heard and seen by millions of Americans, many technical areas were identified for improvement, including: audio quality, state monitoring assignments and designations, and EAS device configuration. An important lesson learned from the first-ever test was when all technical areas are properly addressed; the national EAS functions as intended, but can still be improved.
Additional testing of EAS will incrementally integrate other technologies that are Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)-based for a more resilient and effective system.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Nationwide Test
What technical issues were observed in the November 9th EAS Test?
A technical malfunction occurred at the National Primary level that introduced a second set of Emergency Action Notification (EAN) headers into the system. This affected the audio quality for many downstream stations and in some cases, resulted in duplicated messages or muted the audio test message. Due to the technical malfunction, an echo effect in the message was heard and preceded by several EAS tones.
How is FEMA mitigating and addressing these issues?
FEMA is very committed to mitigating these issues through scientific testing at the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Lab at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC). The duplicative technical malfunction that occurred has already been addressed, and FEMA will continue to make improvements through regular exercising and testing of the system.
What were the key successes of the EAS Test?
The test revealed several successes:
- All PEP stations were connected during the test and over 90 percent were able to receive and relay the EAS message.
- The majority of EAS participants across the country were able to receive and relay the test message.
- Active participation of the EAS community assisted in station and facility-level improvements before and after the test.
- The EAS community took a proactive role in informing a FEMA IPAWS EAS Best Practices Guide and provided the public with information about the test.
- The test elevated public awareness, providing important information on EAS within the landscape of public alert and warning.
What were the key lessons learned?
The test revealed some key lessons learned:
- Outreach to the EAS community is essential to communicate expectations, develop EAS device best practices, and reinforce the purpose of testing.
- When all technical areas of the system are properly addressed, the National EAS functions as intended, but can still be improved.
- Regular and frequent testing of EAS is essential to identify mitigation strategies for a more resilient and effective system.
- Improving the EAS is a process that takes time and requires a coordinated effort of diverse participants at multiple levels with varying roles and responsibilities.
- Coordinated state and territory-wide EAS tests in Alaska, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Nevada were essential to understand the limitations of EAS well in advance of the nationwide test.
What were the national test results?
Initial reports indicate that approximately 80 percent of EAS participants across the country were able to receive and relay the test message. Please visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for information and updates.
When will the government conduct the next nationwide EAS Test? What other technologies will be integrated into the next test?
In coordination with the FCC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other Federal partners, FEMA is committed to communicating the next test date and is currently in the planning and coordination phase. Future EAS testing will integrate other technologies for a more resilient and effective system.
What other outreach and engagement activities can we expect before the next EAS Test?
FEMA, in coordination with Federal partners and EAS participants, will continue to provide timely information updates through virtual roundtables, webinars, conferences, and other events. Please sign up for our email subscription list to receive information on upcoming events, webinars, and other related activities.
What is the purpose of the next EAS TEST?
The next test will assess the effectiveness of mitigation strategies and the successfulness of implementing the EAS Test After-Action Report and Improvement Plan recommendations.
EAS Best Practices Guide
The EAS Best Practices Guide was created in partnership with EAS participants to support incremental improvements by providing basic guidelines for EAS operation and maintenance.